(director/writer: David Michôd; screenwriter: Joel Edgerton; cinematographer: Adam Arkapaw; editor: Peter Sciberras; music: Nicholas Britell; cast: Timothée Chalamet (Hal), Joel Edgerton (John Falstaff ), Dean-Charles Chapman (Thomas), Tom Glynn-Carney (Hotspur), Robert Pattinson (Dauphin), Ben Mendelsohn (Henry IV), Sean Harris (William), Lily-Rose Depp (Catherine), Thomasin McKenzie (Philippa, Queen of Denmark), Andrew Havill (Archbishop of Canterbury), Dean-Charles Chapman (Thomas), Steven Elder (Dorset), Edward Ashley (Cambridge), Stephen Fewell (Grey), Tara Fitzgerald (Hooper), Tom Fisher (Northumberland), Ivan Kaye (Scrope); Runtime: 133; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Liz Watts, David Michôd, Joel Edgerton; Netflix; 2019

“The kind of questionable interpretation of Shakespeare that would probably have the Bard scratching his head.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Australian director David Michôd (“Animal Kingdom”/”The Rover”) is the co-writer with Joel Edgerton of this unwieldy production (which offers a combining of Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2, and Henry V) and whose ideas are fragmented and its attempts to modernize it are by getting rid of Shakespeare speak for the modern tongue. It gets a fine lead performance from the star as the tormented king but fails to get the required emotional involvement needed for this historical drama to stay lively when there are no battles onscreen. It’s also the kind of questionable interpretation of Shakespeare that would probably have the Bard scratching his head. Nevertheless the prose and storytelling work well-enough, and the bloodbath famous battle scene is a visual delight on the Big Screen.

Back in the 15th century the wastrel Prince Hal (Timothée Chalamet), who hangs with his boisterous drinking buddy Sir John Falstaff (Joel Edgerton), is at age 26 crowned King Henry V when his tyrannical father Henry IV (Ben Mendelsohn) dies during the Hundred Years’ War with France (something he opposed) and he is forced to be king despite dad wanting his brother Thomas (Dean-Charles Chapman) crowned. The reluctant king, yearning for peace, is immediately pushed into a war with France by all those around him. As the young king tries to act manly about his new circumstances, things will only lead to a bloody and muddy Battle of Agincourt. The neglected Falstaff (according to the Bard a voice against war) here morphs into a first-rate soldier and military strategist–his prediction of rain for the big battle has the English in proper rain gear while the French are stuck wearing heavy armor. The victorious battle has Hal saluted as the nation’s warrior king and into a miserable forced truce marriage with the King of France’s headstrong daughter (Lily-Rose Depp).

The war set piece and the battle scenes are hearty and unforgettable, as the director strives to show the confused king was overwhelmed with the powers of his office and went to the dark side when he changed his mind to choose war over peace.

The scheming, sinister, overdressed in frills French dauphin is slyly played by the Englishman Robert Pattinson, but with a not too believable heavy French accent that gives one pause for unintentional laughter.

Overall it’s watchable but a lesser presentation than the previous Henry V films, such as the great 1945 film with actor-director Sir Laurence Oliver (Henry V) and the more solid and faithful 1989 one with Kenneth Branagh (Henry V).

The King

REVIEWED ON 12/11/2019  GRADE: B